Tel: +44 (0)20 7636 1178
Address: 34 Charlotte Street, W1T 2NH
Cuisine Type: French
I get asked what my favourite restaurant is all the time. I find it such a difficult question to answer because in addition to personal favourites, by definition, being governed by my own preferences and prejudices, each dining experience depends on so many factors: mood, the choice of food and wine, the service on the day, the company and occasion, such that no two visits to the same restaurant are identical. So, my rather unsatisfactory answer is typically prefixed with “well, it depends….”
But, now that I’ve eaten at Pied à Terre, I can unreservedly say that it is one of the most fabulous restaurants I’ve been to. Intimate and decadent without being stuffy or pretentious, the food is some of the best I’ve had.
Despite just a handful of starters and main courses on the menu, the difficulty in selecting two courses comes not from lack of choice but rather in narrowing down the options. The solution, for those in the know (as it isn’t listed in the main menu), is to request the eight course tasting menu (£80 per head), perfect for gastronomes who want to sample a range of chef Shane Osborne’s two Michelin starred cooking. Better still, oenophiles can add a glass of wine chosen by the sommelier to match each course for an additional £52 per head, which has the added advantage of eliminating the need to navigate the encyclopaedic wine list (that comes, I kid you not, as a boxed set, with a volume for white and another for red).
We started with borlotti bean and smoked bacon soup with girolles, pea shoots and soft poached quail egg, its intense flavour enhanced by shavings of black truffle. This was accompanied by a crisp domain Gerovaissiliou from Greece, an unusual choice that was to be start of a whirlwind gallop around some great wines from around the world.
Next, a disk of pepper-seared tuna with chive crushed potato, black olive and cabernet sauvignon vinaigrette and baby wood sorrel. The fish, barely cooked on the outside, still ruby red on the inside, melted like butter in the mouth. It came with another wine we would never have picked out ourselves, an Austrian Gruner Veltliner.
To follow, a silky smooth pan-fried foie gras with carrot and cumin purée, caramel foam and balsamic jus. We were pleasantly surprised by the New Zealand Riesling with which it came; a less concentrated sweetness than a classic Sauternes, the sharp edge cutting through the richness of the liver.
For the fish course, slow poached wild sea bass with crushed peas, creamed shallots and shellfish bisque, a method of cooking that preserved the moistness of the fish perfectly, served with a Chardonnay from Yarra Valley, Australia.
The assiette of salt marsh lamb, with confit turnip, turnip cream, chicken jus and hazelnut, with the lamb served four ways, was an inventive showcase for the meat. The only red of the meal, a Portuguese Quinta de Roritz, was a good foil for the dish.
For the cheese course, a couple of camemberts – one traditional and the other aged with Calvados – came with crisp poppy seed biscuits and a delicious apple and walnut chutney. A sparkling Mauzac Nature from France, selected for its apple tones, complemented both the Calvados and chutney.
A palate cleansing apple foam with sapin sorbet was served next, its clean flavours, refreshing coolness and contrasting textures augmented by a chilled sweet Coteaux de L’Aubance from the Loire Valley. To complete the menu, a heavenly bitter sweet chocolate tart with macadamia nut cream and stout ice cream: desserts don’t get any better than this. Served with a sherry from Jerez, this was a perfect ending to the meal.
We didn’t want this succession of perfectly prepared and beautifully presented courses with the selection of varied wines to end, but even the coffee and tea was accompanied by a selection of exquisite petit fours: dinky apricot financiers and scones topped with strawberry jam, an assortment of tuiles, chocolate cups filled with chocolate mousse, jellies and truffles.
Two tasting menus with selected wine, water, coffees and service won’t leave you any change from £300, but having used every superlative in my vocabulary in writing this review and some from the thesaurus besides, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this as one of my favourite restaurants of all time.